- Category : 1912-births
- Type : GP
- Profile : 6/3 - Role Model / Martyr
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Separation 2
American politician, five-time Speaker of the House, a cheerfully rumpled embodiment of old-fashioned Democratic politics. Holding a record of over 50 years in both federal and local government without a single political defeat, the homespun streetwise philosopher became most known for leading a new breed of representatives past Watergate reforms into the current media age. He devised a "strategy of inclusion," replacing committee barons with legislative causes and creating task forces that involve rank and file. He once described politics as "the art of effective compromise." A charmer, full of blarney, he became Dem. Whip in 1971 and majority leader in 1973, Speaker in 1977. For 15 years he fought against the surging tide of conservationism. A partisan warrior, he was also a folk philosopher. Not a complicated man, he knew himself and totally loved both politics and people.
O'Neill was the son of Thomas Philip and Rose Ann Tolan O'Neill. His dad had a background in local Democratic politics and was the director of the 1,700 strong City Water Department in Cambridge, MA. A mediocre student in youth, O'Neill was usually voted captain of his school teams despite his unimpressive athletic ability. His first taste of politics came in his teen years when he campaigned door to door for Al Smith in his unsuccessful bid for the Presidency, 1928. To earn tuition for his education at Boston College, O'Neill drove a truck and gleefully pocketed his profits at the poker tables. During his senior year, he announced his candidacy for a seat on the Cambridge city council, but by neglecting to make a personal appeal to his voters he lost to his opponent, suffering the only political defeat of his career. After graduation in 1936, he briefly worked for a local insurance company, but was elected to the Massachusetts legislature later that same year.
O'Neill remained active in local politics over following years, becoming the youngest majority leader in the history of Massachusetts when the Democrats regained control of the legislature in 1947. When young John F. Kennedy launched his senatorial campaign in 1952, O'Neill decided to run for his seat in the House of Representatives. After his assured victory from his vast array of Democratic constituents, he was introduced to Congressional circles, and successfully plied his trade at propitious poker tables with government leaders of both parties. First elected to Congress in 1952, he gained national attention in 1967 when he broke with L.B. Johnson over Vietnam. He was the driving force in the House in choreographing the events which led to Nixon's resignation in 1974. Later, he relished his battles with Ronald Reagan. After gaining a position on the Rules Committee, he approved a measure that enlarged the Committee from 12 to 15 members, thus providing the Democrats with a majority, and was subsequently elected to the U.S House of Representatives from 1953-1987.
During the '60s, O'Neill gained nationwide attention for supporting Eugene McCarthy's anti-war policy and by taking a stand against President Lyndon Johnson over the Vietnam War. By 1971 he was elected Democratic whip followed by a victory as majority leader in 1973. As a moving force behind the partisan assault on President Richard M. Nixon, he orchestrated the events that led to Nixon's resignation in 1974. In 1977 he was elected Speaker of the House, and in the '80s took a public stand against Reagan's blunders in Central America, when the murder of missionary nuns in Nicaragua fueled his Roman Catholic rage.
Roman Catholic, O'Neill married Mildred Anne Miller on 6/17/1941 and was the father of five children. He died of a heart attack in Boston on 1/05/1994.